Today was our first excursion day. We had to leave the hotel early and drove to three significant historical sites. Our first stop was Plaza Tlatelolco, also known as the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Representative of the blending and layering of history that is so typical of Mexico City, this plaza has Aztec ruins, a 17th century church and 1950’s era apartment building.
Next we drove to a major religious site for the Catholic Church – the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The old basilica, built in the 1600s, is slowly sinking due to soft ground. After several hundred years the tilt is very significant. When you walk inside if feels very strange because the front part is sinking faster than the back, causing quite the slanting floor. The new basilica now houses the original timal, Juan Diego’s cloak that has the image of the virgin on it. We saw several pilgrimage processionals. It is a very popular place, there were throngs of visitors from all over the world. The image of this Virgin is everywhere in Mexico – tshirts, mugs, posters, jewelry, etc.
Our final stop, and highlight of the trip for me personally, was Teotihuacan. Built by a civilization older than the Aztecs, this site has the famous Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, and the Temple of Quezalcoatl. As I mentioned previously, I love history and am thrilled to be walking among the ancient structures. The Anthropology Museum was very fun but this was even better because it is all “on location” so to speak. I climbed steps that ancient priests climbed thousands of years ago. And boy did we climb steps. A few of us climbed the Temple of the Moon (they only let you go halfway up), then walked down the Avenue of the Dead (the name is debated by scholars) and then climbed the Temple of the Sun. We’re talking hundreds of very steep steps here. The view, and the bragging rights, were totally worth it.